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June 18th, 2009

Do Americans Still Want Large Vehicles?



First it was trendy to go “green.” Then high gas prices made it economical to buy small. Now the government is pushing GM to change their design process. It seems as though all the pieces are in place to get American car buyers to purchase smaller vehicles.

But do Americans really want smaller vehicles?

Some of our readers don’t seem to think so. “Mark,” a sales manager at a Chrysler dealership in Minnesota, says despite what the media has been reporting, their sales numbers indicate that Americans are still buying big vehicles.

Safety may be one of the biggest reasons Americans continue to buy big. While safety standards for smaller vehicles have improved consistently over the last decade, you can’t argue that weight translates, at least partially, into safety:

Put another way, having better fuel economy and being surrounded by air bags does not counter the unyielding freight train of physics. Consider the differences in weights.

Minicars typically weigh 2,500 pounds or less. The Smart Fortwo weighs about 1,800 pounds. A midsize sedan is about 3,300 pounds. A large sedan is about 4,000 pounds, and a four-wheel-drive sport utility vehicle is about 5,500 pounds.

“Almost everything you hit in the real world is more capable of causing damage to you if you are in a small, lightweight car than in a larger, heavier one,” [Adrian Lund, President of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety] said.

What do you think — are you ready to embrace this new trend of smaller vehicles?

Will Your Next Car Be Smaller Than the One You Have Now?

View Results

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10 Responses to “Do Americans Still Want Large Vehicles?”

  1. Family Man Says: June 18th, 2009 at 12:17 pm

    “Clown Cars” are great as an option, but what about families with multiple kids, pets, how can we live in a world of small cars like the ones I’m seeing actually hitting the roads.

    This is par for the course for our country and a microcosm of why we find ourselves where we are today. We’ve made our bed.

    Instead of fixing the issue at hand, we governmentally move in a direction that doesn’t solve the root of the issue.

    We should not be surprised as we find ourselves no longer the world’s leader. Can’t remain the leader when we consistently make poor leadership decisions.

  2. Tim Manni Says: June 18th, 2009 at 12:49 pm

    Family Man,

    Great point — the small cars are fine and good if you if you don’t need to transport people, luggage, etc.

    I’m waiting to see which automaker, specifically domestic, will emerge as a leader in larger vehicles. From what I’ve heard the demand is still there. In a market of smaller vehicles, someone stands to cash in on the larger car market.

    We’ll have to wait and see. Will it be Ford, GM, or Chrysler? If I had to pick one now I may go with Ford. I’ve seen their latest SUV the Ford Edge all over the road.

    Who’s your pick?

  3. Lucia Says: June 18th, 2009 at 1:12 pm

    Families are one segment of society that require room and safety. What about the tall American? or the wide American? or the many Americans that need work trucks or a pickup to pull their RV? What about the elderly American that needs comfort?

    If our GMC pickup was beyond repair, we would opt for Ford. They are an American company that didn’t buckle under govt pressure and I think they should be rewarded. Toyota has it’s fans and may be a well made product, but I can’t stand the seats and the crowded interior.

  4. Tim Manni Says: June 18th, 2009 at 1:24 pm

    Hey Lucia,

    I knew I could count on you for a response to this post! I was thinking of you when I wrote “Some of our readers don’t seem to think so.”

    You make great points as always. Hahaha, have you ever seen a real tall person drive a compact car? I think your main point correlates perfectly with “Family Man’s.” There a whole section of Americans that don’t even “qualify” for smaller vehicles (families, laborers, businesses, etc.).

    I asked Family Man this question and I want your thoughts: out of the domestic brands, which one will emerge as the overall leader in large vehicle production — Ford, GM, Chrysler?

    Great to hear from you,

  5. Lucia Says: June 18th, 2009 at 11:21 pm

    I think Ford will, because Ford makes heavy duty vehicles for work and recreation and the other 2 are no longer free to be consumer sensitive.

  6. Family Man Says: June 19th, 2009 at 9:23 am

    If one of them is going to emerge — I guess I’m going to go with Ford also (even though I LOVE my chevy suburban for our family and I wouldn’t mind trying a Yukon next).

    Here’s my reasoning – I think it is accurate to say that Ford has led or been close to leading that segment for quite some time with the Explorer and F-Series models. They’ve just put out a very nice “Compact SUV” in the Ford Edge as Tim mentioned. I have seen them all over as well and they are pretty slick.

    Now, if they can only create the large SUV to rival the suburban, yukon and escalade types, then I think they’ll have the most diverse set of options.

    I know — someone is thinking expedition is their competitor and they have it, but I don’t think it stacks up well to the others, so I think they have to come up with something else.

    I am hoping that our American companies can create quality at economical prices to compete with the foreign companies. If they can get there form the quality/dollar perspecitve, then we have a chance to re-invent brand loyalty in this country and at some point American will hopefully buy American given equal choices.

    “Compact SUV” –> That’s kind of funny.

  7. Tim Manni Says: June 19th, 2009 at 9:32 am

    Hey Lucia,

    Just think of how popular the Ford F-150 has been over the last 25 years. I remember reading when auto sales really first started tanking about a year ago that despite the supposed transition to smaller vehicles, the F-150 was still their number-one seller. Next time you’re on the road or driving around, notice all the Fords on the road.

    I think you may be right, but we’ll have to wait and see what comes of this American auto industry in the next 6 months to a year.

    Thanks as always for sharing your point of view,

  8. Tim Manni Says: June 19th, 2009 at 9:41 am

    Family Man,

    Ford has held a firm grasp on that market for some time now, you’re certainly right. Looking back, was the Ford Explorer one of the very first SUVs?

    Speaking to your point in your last paragraph, to Ford’s credit, they are growing in popularity with smaller, more fuel-conscious vehicles like the Focus, as well as being a staple in pick-up trucks and SUVs. Now if Ford can lock in on quality, they’ll be set. I have a Ford, and I’ve had just an awful experience with — constant maintenance. But hey, I know others who have owned the same car with no problem.

    Thanks for your comments Family Man,

  9. Lucia Says: June 19th, 2009 at 12:59 pm

    You’re welcome, Tim. We have a 1-ton 1992 Ford for hauling firewood, and it lives up to it’s acronym, Fix Or Repair Daily. Still, I think the Ford Company has shown alot of guts and historically has always stood against gov’t interference, even when Henry Ford had to go to jail for it.

  10. Tim Manni Says: June 19th, 2009 at 1:22 pm

    Hey Lucia,

    Fix Or Repair Daily,” haha, boy do I know all about that! I’ve had parts fail on my Ford that I didn’t know existed.

    Let’s just hope Ford can capitalize on their independence and really tap into the American peoples’ needs. And let’s hope that they step up their quality!

    Keep your eye out for more posts like this one over the weekend. I may do a poll that asks who the readers think will emerge as the domestic auto king.


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Tim Manni is the Managing Editor of HSH.com and the author of their daily blog, which concentrates on the latest developments in the mortgage and housing markets.

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